Convenient or not, it’s a biological fact: adults need to sleep between seven and nine hours each night. A colossal 66 per cent of us fail to do so on a regular basis. It’s not just a matter of feeling tired the next day; over the long run, sleep deprivation can contribute to depression, obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart attacks, and increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
“The silent sleep-loss epidemic is the greatest public health challenge we face in the 21st century in developed nations,” argues Dr Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, in his recent book, Why We Sleep. “Scientists like me have even started lobbying doctors to start ‘prescribing’ sleep.”
Walker’s top tip for a successful ‘prescription’ is sticking to a schedule. The body naturally thrives on a regular sleep-wake rhythm, and a set bedtime will remove some of the temptation to spend your time in other ways.
He also recommends avoiding, if at all possible, medicines that could ‘conflict’ with the sleep prescription, such as certain heart, blood pressure or asthma medications, plus some remedies for colds, coughs and allergies. There are alternatives available for many of these drugs, so if they’re costing you shut-eye, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.